Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines supported the Vatican’s declaration on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid.
“We are just affirming the teaching of the Church regarding marriage,” said Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, adding that marriage has always been “the union of man and woman.”
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee, said same-sex union has never been permitted by the Church.
“So, it’s simply logical that priests are not supposed to give blessings to same sex unions,” said the priest. “Doing so will give such unions a semblance of acceptance from the Church,” he added.
In a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”
“Furthermore, since blessings on persons are in relationship with the sacraments, the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” read the congregation’s statement.
It said that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
“The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them,” added the Vatican.
Rey Valmores-Salinas, leader of the gay group Bahaghari, reacted to the Vatican statement, saying, “We can’t just say homosexual people ‘deserve to be in a family,’ and in the same breath, openly call to exclude them from our institutions.”
“Being gay is not a sin. Bigotry is,” he said, adding that The LGBTQ+ community “must stand (together) and demand our rights to love, and for our love to be recognized by society.”
In some countries, such as the United States and Germany, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to de facto institutionalize these.
But conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Church have expressed alarm over these practices, particularly those in Germany where at least two bishops, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, one of the pope’s top advisers, have shown support for some kind of “pastoral” blessing.
In response to formal questions from a number of dioceses on whether the practice was allowed, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued the ruling: “Negative.”
Pope Francis approved the response, the CDF said, adding that it was “not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite” of the sacrament of marriage and the blessing associated with it.
From the time he was archbishop in his native Argentina, Pope Francis has supported the right of gay couples to have civil legal protections but has always opposed gay marriage.
He also has had meetings with gay couples and in 2013 made the now famous remark “Who am I to judge” about gays trying to live by the Church’s rules.
The Church teaches that being gay is not inherently sinful but forbids same-sex sexual activity. – with additional report from Marielle Lucenio and Reuters